Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hernandez return to the Phillies rests on his defense

READING -- With the way that Cesar Hernandez is hitting and the struggle that Freddy Galvis faces to produce offensively, it’s natural to think that the two should trade places.

Hernandez return to the Phillies rests on his defense

The Phillies´ Cesar Hernandez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Phillies' Cesar Hernandez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

READING -- With the way that Cesar Hernandez is hitting and the struggle that  Freddy Galvis faces to produce offensively, it’s natural to think that the two should trade places.

Hernandez is at Reading, learning how to play shortstop and third base as a way to make himself more valuable.

At second base, there won’t be that many opportunities with the Phillies as long as Chase Utley remains healthy.

Galvis, can play short, third and second base adeptly, but his struggles at the plate have been well documented. He is currently batting .056 (2 for 36).

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Meanwhile Hernandez is now hitting .341 at Reading after going 3 for 4 in Monday’s 8-1 loss to the visiting Portland Sea Dogs.

Hernandez, who turns 24 on May 23, has hit at every level. Even last year in 121 at-bats for the Phillies he batted .289. Hernandez hit .231 when he began this season with the Phillies, but he only had 13 at-bats.

He was sent to Reading to learn to play third base and shortstop and it has been a work in progress.

During his first 20 games, Hernandez played 13 at third, two at second and five at short. He made seven errors at third base and one at short.

“We know Cesar can swing the bat and he can hit, there is no doubt about that,” Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. “We have to get him used to playing the left side of the infield.”

And according to Wathan, there is so much to learn, especially at third base.

One of the examples Wathan gave was that Hernandez has to learn to give signs on bunt defense.

“If we have a bunt defense, he has to be comfortable to give the sign and not totally give it away,” Wathan said.

The manager added that Hernandez has to learn when to cheat in on players who might bunt. He also has to know where to position himself on cutoff throws.

“All that stuff is new to him,” Wathan said. “You really can’t expect a guy who has never played third base at all to hop out there for 10 days or whatever, two weeks and say ‘now you are a third baseman, go get ‘em.'”

Wathan said Hernandez told him the last time he had played third base was when he was nine-years-old.

Still, with Galvis struggling at the plate, there will more clamoring from fans for Hernandez’s bat in a utility role. Wathan says that Hernandez hasn’t worried about being in Double-A after spending two brief stints with the Phillies.

“His attitude has been great,” Wathan said. “He wants to play in the big leagues and he knows this is going to help him and know still a step and he is still a young guy.”

So Hernandez will continue to work on his defense, knowing the progress he shows will determine whether he can help the Phillies this season and beyond.

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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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